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How does car air conditioning work?

Every summer, drivers across the UK opt for rolling down their windows to keep themselves cool. However, this can make for a blustery journey, especially if you’re driving a long distance. That’s where your car air conditioning system comes in.

Which parts are necessary for my car’s air conditioning system to work?

Contrary to popular belief, your car’s air conditioning system doesn’t actually pump warm and cold air through its various components. Here’s the rundown:

  • First, something called a compressor increases the pressure and temperature of the system’s refrigerant vapour. Then, the vapour is pumped into a condenser.
  • In the condenser, the high-pressure refrigerant vapour is transformed into a liquid. Because the vapour is high-pressure, it condenses more quickly than a low-pressure gas would. Then, the liquid refrigerant flows into the receiver drier.
  • The receiver drier acts like a reservoir; collecting any moisture that may have leaked into the refrigerant.
  • Moisture left in the cooling system by a broken receiver drier can cause the whole system to malfunction. Often, moisture will take the form of ice or crystals, which can prevent airflow or lead to mechanical and structural damage. It’s very important to ensure your receiver drier is working properly by replacing it every 2 years.
  • From the receiver dryer, the liquid refrigerant travels through the expansion valve, where pressure is released and it expands into vapour form. How much refrigerant is released depends on the temperature setting you have chosen on your car’s A/C panel.
  • The refrigerant travels into the evaporator, where it boils (remember, refrigerants such as R134A boil at around -26°C).
  • The evaporator absorbs heat from the boiling refrigerant, whilst removing heat from the air within the unit. Fans blow the cooled air into the cabin of your car.

How can I maintain my car’s air conditioning system?

An air conditioning system requires many parts to function effectively. However, if your car’s air conditioning system isn’t regularly serviced or maintained, you may experience problems which could make driving uncomfortable.

Keeping an eye on the performance of your car’s air conditioning system is crucial for ensuring you don’t run into more major problems further down the line – what seems like a small problem may lead to your whole system needing to be replaced.

Contact us

If you’re experiencing difficulties getting your car’s air conditioning system to work or you need a specific part, we can help.

Our team of City & Guilds accredited engineers are available through our Mobile Air Conditioning Repair Service – we’ll come to you, diagnose the problem, and offer an instant solution. Alternatively, you can bring your car to us or order parts directly from our website.

Interested? Give us a call on 0191 267 3312, or drop an email to We’ll be back in touch with you shortly.

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